Politics in the country, it seems, has gone to the dogs.
Only last week, a feisty member of parliament was being ambushed with allegations because she reportedly kidnapped a dog she said was hers from her ex, a pooch they shared when they were together. Two days before that, an All India Majlis-e-Ittehadul Muslimeen (AIMIM) leader went to court in Pragyaraj, against another top dog MP, also a national leader, for giving a name to their pet which, he claimed, hurt his religious sentiments. Earlier, a national political party lost a state and consequently a whole region because the local leader felt insulted for being ignored while the pet canine was lovingly being fed biscuits. And, of course, who can forget Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s infamous “puppy under the wheel” remark as an analogy to express his pain for the murderous assault on Muslims in the 2002 Gujarat riots?
Now, how did politics end up in this doggone mess? Take All India Trinamool Congress (TMC) leader Mohua Moitra, who is being dragged to a parliamentary ethics committee by a BJP alpha whose qualifications she had challenged earlier. The charge: asking questions in the Lok Sabha – allegedly on behalf of industrialist, Darshan Hiranandani – against Gautam Adani, the Modi government’s pet plutocrat, who sees all questions put to him as a conspiracy to deprive him of the treats he’s apparently been getting
As allegations and counter-allegations flew, including defamation suits, it was Moitra’s ex, Jai Anant Dehadrai’s whimpering note about their pet rotweiller, three-year-old Henry, that added real suspense.
After Henry the Pooch was seen playing lovingly on Moitra’s social media posts, Dehadrai wrote a letter to Delhi Police Commissioner accusing the MP of “stealing and hiding his pet dog, Henry.”
Dehadrai said to the police, “My bond with my dog Henry is of a parent-child. I have looked after Henry since he was 40 days old, and I beseech you to please reunite me with Henry at the earliest, time is of the essence…” Earlier, when he had custody of the dog, she too had wanted the police’s help to recover him.
Then, there’s the case of Congress leader Rahul Gandhi who was accused of throwing away Assam to the Bhartiya Janata Party (BJP) because he allegedly snubbed then Congress leader, Himanta Biswa Sarma, who had come to meet Gandhi on urgent state issues but instead, Gandhi ignored him and kept playing and feeding biscuits to his Boston terrier, Pidi.
It’s another matter that Sarma quit the Congress and went on to win the BJP its first government without any allies in Assam, and to become chief minister. According to political lore, Sarma now plays a significant role in the politics of the northeast and Tripura, giving the BJP an upper hand through some assertive machinations. Of course, a non-plussed Gandhi has used Pidi to mock social media trolls when he put up the terrier’s pic saying it is his pet dog that tweets on his behalf.
Ppl been asking who tweets for this guy..I’m coming clean..it’s me..Pidi..I’m way 😎 than him. Look what I can do with a tweet..oops..treat! pic.twitter.com/fkQwye94a5
— Rahul Gandhi (@RahulGandhi) October 29, 2017
Then again, last fortnight, Gandhi’s gift of a Jack Russel terrier pup to his mother Sonia Gandhi, on World Animal Day, saying that “animals teach us the meaning of unconditional love” got him into the doghouse after he revealed the pet’s name, Noorie. It was not long before when an AIMIM leader approached the local court in Prayagraj seeking to file a complaint saying the name hurt his religious sentiments. As the complainant claimed, “Noorie’ is specifically related to Islam and also finds a mention in the Quran,” and is now looking to file a complaint under Section 295 A of IPC (hurting religious sentiments).
In the west, pet pooches have blazed in the hall of fame throughout its long history, from the White House to 10, Downing Street. President Joe Biden’s German shepherd Commander, a first from a shelter, was exiled from the White House last week after he bit two Secret Service agents, and British PM Rishi Sunak’s Nova, a fox red Labrador, is said to be having ‘heated exchanges’ with Larry the Cat. But here in India, there aren’t too many furry tales and tails in official homes.
Perhaps, it’s only the late Congress president Sitaram Kesri, who was known to have lived the last years of his life alone with his famous poms. The once-powerful party treasurer and president always had his three pet Pomeranians who had become a part of political folklore in those colourful days. Journalists visiting Kesri’s residence during the plotting of his dethronement and his dogged refusal to step down were first met by the pesky pets snapping at their feet. One of Kesri’s pet Poms, Ruchi, died on the same day as Kesri passed on.
Today, while there’s no Moti or Rocky (fave desi doggy names) roaming 7 Race Course Road, the prime minister’s residence, it’s a sage, vishwaguru Modi who feeds his resident peacocks from his hands in his vast verandah or inside the hallway. Or has been photographed and filmed feeding them, which is not exactly the same thing.Even the famously called kutta-billi (dog and cat) minister Maneka Gandhi, has only been heard accusing people of butchering or maiming animals, from circuses to the Hare Krishna organisation, though she has asked for a humane, approach to the street dog issue, even as grotesque pictures of roadside dogs being tied up and thrown into ditches during the G-20 meet were met with horror.
It’s time dog tales were less about sabotage, skullduggery, kidnapping and other pet peeves; let there be more pooch schmooze.
Vrinda Gopinath is a senior journalist.